Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What's For Supper?

When I began to type, my fingers were on the wrong keys and what came out on the page looked like I was symbolizing cussing, how appropriate I thought. For supper presently is a curse. With the small amount of energy my body allots me each day, almost all of it in the early morning, the last thing I want to do in the evening is cook. Especially since my husband doesn't get home until eight o'clock at night, the same time my joints and muscles have decided to have a pain party.

So when my daughter called yesterday morning and said, "What am I going to fix for supper?" expecting me to solve her problem, I wanted to say I don't know. I wasn't doing well feeding my own husband. Poor man has often had to rifle through the fridge for something to eat. But, I could hear our middle grand daughter begin to cry in the background and knew she was having one of those melt down days where she cries about everything. We know she has SPD (Sensory Processing Dysfunction) and we suspect she is also on the Autism spectrum.

This was going to be one of those days when our daughter spends the bulk of her time soothing her and holding this high maintenance grand daughter of ours, tending to her four year old and nursing her eight month old. Pulling out one of my food cards I'd saved from when our children were young, I helped her tweak it to fit her cooking style and weekly schedule. We decided on potato soup for the day, since she had all the ingredients, and it could cook in the crock pot. Plus, she could make it while her daughter took a nap (she fell asleep while Josie and I were on the phone). While doing so, I thought it was about time I did the same and kicked my rear end into gear.

The idea originated in the 1950's when housewives solved the problem by having the same weekly menu, hamburgers on Saturday, Sunday roast, Monday meatloaf, Tuesday pork chops etc. That eliminated the "What do I cook for supper?" problem but was a bit stagnant. Adding a little flexibility, I formulated a master plan that broadened the choice of meals and included the weekly sales at the grocery store.

I will share with you the first stage of the plan and hopefully, figure out where that safe place I chose to place the second part of menu planning is so I can use it and let you have a peek.

Breaking foods down into categories comes first:
1. Things roasted
2. Fried meat in a steak like form
3. Crock pot foods
4. Italian foods
5. Mexican foods
6. Quick preparation meals
7. Soups and Stews
8. Casseroles (I don't make them but you might.)
From here you decide what day of the week to designate to each category. Below is my basic menu plan with a few examples of the foods I put in each category.

Supper (which in our area is the evening meal)

Sunday - Roast/ roast chicken, roast beef, venison roast, pork roast, ham, and meatloaf... (This is anything that you put in the oven and include a baked potato or put potatoes and carrots in with. Sometimes, I use a crock pot instead of the oven.)

Monday - Steak / lamb, beef, wild game, pork chops, chicken breast, fried chicken, fish... (Any meat that is fried, broiled, or grilled)

Tuesday - Soup and stews/ tortellini, taco, potato, clam chowder, tomato, beef and noodle, chicken and noodle, chili, ham and bean, and French onion... (This is a great opportunity to use leftovers.)

Wednesday - Mexican/- tacos, enchiladas, tamales, Polo con Crema...

Thursday - Italian/- spaghetti, lasagna, shrimp premavera, parmesan chicken...

Friday - Crock Pot / Anything I make in a crock pot. Some of the rest of the weeks meals may spill over into this category.

Saturday - Leftovers or fast food. This includes stir fries, sloppy joes and anything that is quick to fix. I keep ingredients for a few of these meals on hand all the time so if our children come and stay longer than they expected to or company drops in, I always have something quick to fix, if I'm menu planning. This day is also designated for those new recipes I'm always wanting to try.

Instead of this you could go with each day of the week featuring a different meat. Sunday beef, Monday pork, Tuesday chicken and so on. For me that is too open and I'd be saying, "What's for supper?"but the idea is to tailor the plan to you. Be flexible in your menu and if you want Italian on Sunday and it isn't scheduled for that day no big deal, have Italian. Menu planning just gives you a basic plan and the ingredients to carry it out.

If you want to try a new recipe - do - or if you are like me and have evenings where you aren't able to do much, then include that in your menu by having freezer meal made on one of your good days, an extra pan of lasagna or enchiladas for example. As of today, I'm going back to making extra food and putting it in the freezer and that extra food includes dessert but I'll tell you about those another time. I'm also making as much of the meal as possible early in the day. Chopping the vegetable or mixing all the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet in another (refrigerating it) to make cream biscuits. Then I just have to mix, pat in a round cake pan, cut into wedges, and bake. You get the idea.

After my main dish is decided then I add on the chart vegetables to go with the meal. I include potatoes, carrots, broccoli, beets, green beans, peas, corn, and buttercup squash from our food storage. Other vegetables such as zucchini make it in seasonally. Then when the children were home, I added a green salad right after a shopping trip and when that was gone we had coleslaw because the cabbage kept longer than the lettuce, and finally a fruit salad from our bottle fruit with some frozen berries thrown in. By then, two weeks had gone by, pay day had arrived, and it was time to go shopping again.

On the food menu in a brightly colored pen, to catch my attention, I make notes when to thaw meat for the next day, or what parts of the meal I could prepare ahead of time like chopping onions, bell peppers etc. when I'm not in such a hurry. I almost always chop two or three onions up at a time since it is an emotional event. Well, maybe not emotional but tears well up in my eyes. Then when it is time to cook, your ingredients are ready. This is really important if you have small children since it breaks the main meal up into small sections. For instance when you make that peanut butter and jelly sandwich for the kids with carrots for lunch, chop extra carrots to go in your roast for supper.

Now more than ever, I buy on sale in bulk and then except for a few fresh ingredients that might be needed, my choice of what to place on the menu is wide open. Shopping in this manner allows me to buy most of my purchases on sale saving us a bundle on our grocery bill. This includes sour cream, cream cheese, and cottage cheese since I try and buy enough to make it to the next sale which is for just the two of us invariably before the use by date on the carton. If the use by date is coming up and I have too much sour cream for example in the fridge then my menu will include Polo Con Crema or Stroganoff, or I might make lemon pound cake to have in the freezer when I need a quick dessert.

With the main dish decided then I add vegetables and a type of biscuits or bread along with a side dish like rice, cooked dried beans, or a salsa if appropriate. Did you know cooked rice freezes well?

So if "What's for supper?" is bogging you down like it is me, then join me in forming a menu. I know this plan works, it has for years but every once in a while I abandon it. Then I can't decide what to have from the myriad of choices and in my indecision, and lack of energy, I do nothing. Time runs out, Kirk is home and asking, "What's for supper?", and I'm still wondering the same thing.

I'd love to hear your ideas on how you decide what's for Supper? I always learn a great deal from you, for instance, the tip on soap making by Bogger Girl. Thanks!

I would like to thank all of you that wrote such kind and supporting words. They have buoyed me up as I traverse the hormonal imbalances of menopause and await my medication's arrival.

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